What better way to spend an August Bank holiday than camping! we had been promising Tilly we would go camping for a while and managed to grab ourselves a quite late 3 night break at Waterside Holiday Park near Maldon. We hadn’t been camping for a while but still had everything from a few years ago so armed with our tent, airbeds and cooking equipment off we headed to Essex. Previously we had camped in Dorset, Cornwall, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight but knowing how bad the traffic is heading west on a bank holiday we decided to go against the grain and go east in the hope we would avoid the worst of the traffic
So far so good! we arrived at 2pm with minimal traffic, checked in and located our pitch. Now for the hard part – pitching the tent!
In an impressive time of 34 minutes we had the tent up and our camp for the next 3 nights set up! Compared to other sites we had stayed Waterside offered generous pitch sizes with plenty of room for the tent and the car and a tap, electric hook up and bins nearby. The pitch was advertised as 8m x 6m but it was definitely bigger than that.
We took a trip out of camp to Morrisons in Maldon which was 20 minutes drive away and stocked up on food and drink before heading back for our first meal of the stay! a bbq of course! The weather forecast for the weekend was surprisingly good (past experiences of camping on bank holiday August has been hurricanes and torrential rain causing us to abandon tent and head home) so we were hopeful that this weekend was going to be a scorcher!
The site itself was set on an estuary and a man made lake and after checking out the clubhouse which was quite small and had children’s karaoke as entertainment (!) we decided to head down to the estuary for sunset. It was pretty down there but what we had become aware of was mosquitoes! I got bitten as I stepped out of the car and from further exploration of the estuary we realised it was marshlands which is the ideal breeding ground for them! Swatting the mossies away we grabbed a few photos before heading back to the tent.
The evening was spent scratching our mosquito bites and playing various games in the tent before turning in for the night. We were quite wary that there had been bad reviews of the site including the toilet block but we were located very near and they weren’t half as bad as we expected!
The next day we had some breakfast cooked on the George Foreman and the portable gas cooker, showered and then headed out to visit Clacton-on Sea. Although as the crow flies Clacton was not far, to drive took an hour and 15. We stopped on the way to see Jaywick; we had originally booked a campsite here until reading the reviews and seeing it was featured on Benefits Britain and described as the most deprived area of England. The reviews talked of driving through ‘mini beirut’ to get to the campsite and so we changed our location to Waterside. We were still however curious to see if it was as bad as it was made out. We did spy a very drunk man at 11am staggering out of his front door and lots of rubbish but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We headed down the road to Clacton Pier for some quality entertainment!
The pier itself was constructed in 1871 and there was a choice of entertainment from the fairground rides, go karts, bowling and a Sea Aquarium. After some fish and chip and ice cream we headed back to the site to chill for a bit before venturing to the club house to play pool and to yet again have to listen to the children’s karaoke which was something of an eardrum blowing experience. We headed back to the tent still scratching those darn mossie bites, had a game of poker and turned in for the night.
The next day we had an early morning swim; they had an adults only session at 9am which was much welcome as the site was busy and we wouldn’t have got a look in with all the children on the site. After a camping breakfast and debates about the washing up we headed out to Promenade Park in Maldon, a popular local attraction located on the river Blackwater. The park hosts a variety of activities mostly for younger children such as copious play areas and a sand pit, adventure golf, a crabbing lake, a bmx track and skateboard park and a junior fun fair. There are also food and drink kiosks and it was compulsory to get a picture of Tilly with a giant ice cream as we have done for several years. This year however she needed some help!
We had a game of adventure golf which was quite fun. It was pirate themed and a relatively new attraction at the park. It wasn’t the cheapest at £30 for the four of us but it certainly a good laugh if not tricky at times!
We had a short walk down the promenade towards the Hythe Quay which was very picturesque. The quay boasted a couple of pubs and places to eat as well as boating trips (although the tide was out when we were there. We stopped in the Queens Head Inn for a quick drink.
We headed back to the car and headed home via a supermarket to replenish our supplies before heading back to the site for a well earned BBQ. The evening entertainment that night was an outdoor cinema set up in the adjacent field to the club house and the film was ‘Dirty Dancing’. Nigel and I set up our little camp on a straw bale with blankets, mossie repellent and citronella candles and drank some wine whilst watching the film. It was a bit chilly and despite our best efforts we weren’t able to fend off more bites from those pesky mosquitoes! We headed back to our tent at 11pm to apply yet more bite cream and settled in for our last night in the tent.
The next morning we had to leave by 10am so we were up early had some breakfast before packing up. It was pretty painless although a bit windy and we were able to get away on time and head back. The journey back was again pretty painless as all the traffic appeared to be heading the opposite direction.
So our overall views of our trip were that Essex was actually really nice where we visited and not that many fake tans or velour tracksuits although we did see a few. We picked Essex due to the fact we knew bank holiday traffic down to Dorset where we had been before was not at all fun and this proved to be a wise move! The site itself was really quite nice and I am glad we weren’t put off by the reviews; it was a small site but I hadn’t noticed the issues with the toilets or overcrowding and fights in the clubhouse which seemed to be of concern. All in all besides the mosquito bites which we weren’t prepared for we had a lovely weekend and Essex has a lot to offer; for £79 for a 3 night pitch with electric hook up we really couldn’t complain we didn’t get value for money and certainly would not rule out another camping trip in this area again.